InterviewErika Alpern

Maria Yuan x IssueVoter

InterviewErika Alpern
Maria Yuan x IssueVoter

A series that spotlights the inspiring women who are building inspiring things.

Maria Yuan created IssueVoter , a non-partisan website that helps you make your voice heard in Washington, out of a personal need. Users receive targeted alerts before Congress votes on issues they care about. It puts legislation in layman’s terms, along with what both sides are saying – helping you make an informed decision at election time! Follow IssueVoter on Instagram to track & vote on bill that are important to you. 

Why did you start your company?

Growing up, I didn’t consider a career in politics. However, from a young age voting was always emphasized by both of my parents and perhaps this is what instilled the passion in me. I remember mock voting in second grade and saw it as a personal responsibility. In college, created at a leadership program, my vision was 100% voter participation. During my college years, I also had quite a bit of interaction with our State reps. I was part of a small group of students who lobbied the Texas Legislature to introduce and pass a bill creating the first student seat on the University of Texas System’s Board of Regents. In another role, serving as an intern, I saw first-hand that Representatives really do track every constituent contact, yet such a small percentage of us actually reach out.

After college, I worked at JPMorgan in Investment Banking. I learned to take risks; I also learned it doesn’t hurt to ask. I asked for a leave of absence to work on one of the most targeted races in Iowa – an open seat in a swing district that many hoped would turn the 25D-25R split in the State Senate. And that’s where the idea for IssueVoter began. I think it’s unfortunate that voter turnout has dropped. The last mid-term election in 2014 reached a 72-year low at just 34%. However, I also saw that the real work that affects our lives happens between elections.

About ten years ago, I remember sitting in my office working on my laptop thinking, ‘There’s so much focus on elections but there should be an easy way to track what our reps are doing throughout the year. Someday technology will get there. Someone will create this and I will be able to use it!’ Nearly 10 years later, the idea that someone would create a solution to easily track what our reps are doing still stuck with me. It both astonished and frustrated me that something still didn’t exist; so, I decided to create it. My passion for the problem arose from personal experience – a powerful motivator.

IssueVoter is a non-partisan website that helps you make your voice heard in Washington and track how often your elected officials vote your way. Users receive targeted alerts before Congress votes on issues they care about. IssueVoter puts legislation in layman’s terms, along with what both sides are saying. You can then send your opinion directly to your rep – in just one click – *and* track your rep’s votes and bill outcomes – helping you make an informed decision at election time!

What was your most exciting day as a founder? What happened? Why was it the best?

November 9, 2016, the day after the election, when the current version of IssueVoter launched!

 Photo by Diana Zapata for Career Contessa

Photo by Diana Zapata for Career Contessa

What is your biggest struggle in the hustle? (Be honest!)

When it comes to mission-driven work, the mission is often so big and far in the future that it can be hard to celebrate daily and monthly wins. The potential for huge impact and change inspires me. IssueVoter’s mission is to give everyone a voice in our democracy by making civic engagement accessible, efficient, and impactful. For example, having a Congress that is truly representative of the majority of voters isn’t immediately achievable. But we can count having users in all 50 states and sending hundreds of thousands of opinions to Congress as steps towards that mission.

What is the item on your to do list that you wish you never had to do?

Organize my contacts - there are so many (thousands) and it feels daunting.

If there was a brand/marketing/PR genie that would hand you one achievement, what would it be?

Appearing on FOX News and MSNBC!

What is your favorite Instagram feed right now?

My dog's! I post pics of her more than on my own Instagram.

What is an article you read / podcast you listened to recently that felt like the writer/host was in your brain?

This one by David From, a speechwriter for President George W. Bush in 2001-2002. Not the part about Trump, but THIS: "Protests are fun; meetings are effective...But bodies in the street represent only potential power, not actual power...The outrage may get you started, but only hope keeps you going. Hope, as Vaclav Havel insisted, is an expression of the state of our minds, not a description of the state of the world. It powers you to undertake the daunting but essential mission: unlimited efforts for limited goals. You’re not trying to save the world. Just to pass one law. It doesn’t sound like much. It could be everything."

Let's end on a non-work note! Favorite place you have ever been?

There are so many! Some of my favorite trips have been in France - Paris & Saint-Tropez


 

CEO & Founder of Tactile